The People’s Republic of China has always been strict about what is  and is not allowed into the country. Now authorities can add one more thing to the list of forbidden articles after the emergence of this particular item. Some are even going so far as to say that the government fears it more than anything, and is consequently keeping certain unstable areas of the country under high surveillance.

Any guesses as to what this banned item could be?

What did you come up with? A flame thrower? Video games featuring girls in bikinis? A smartphone that can get around China’s strict internet censoring?

Nope. The thing that the Chinese government is now determined to keep out of the country is a book.

Back in March, a book entitled China’s Godfather: Xi Jinping was published in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. Xi Jinping is the incumbent President of the People’s Republic of China. While the book has become a hot topic in Hong Kong, Chinese authorities are doing everything in their power to prevent it from reaching the mainland.

Why all the secrecy? The reason lies with its author, a well-known writer and democracy activist named Yu Jie.

Yu Jie has already clashed with the communist party on several occasions, most notably with his written piece Apologies to Tibet, which sparked outrage in 2004. Years later, the activist was placed under house arrest and even physically tortured after the publication of his book China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao, which included “a scathing critique” of the former Prime Minister. His close friendship with political reformist and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize and is currently incarcerated, has not made things any easier for Yu Jie.

▼Yu Jie

Yu_Jie_from_VOAVoice of America

Yu is now living with his family in America, but newest book concerning Xi Jinping has riled up the government in a similar fashion. Apparently, Yu has consistently labeled Xi as a “dictator” since the start of his administration, and this book was long-awaited within anti-communist circles. Authorities are therefore cracking down on anyone who tries to bring it onto the mainland.

A Chinese affairs correspondent for Japan’s Sankei Newspaper spoke about how he had bought a copy of the book in Hong Kong in April, only to have it seized at customs and thrown onto a mountain of other copies of the same book, which had been taken from other travellers. When the correspondent asked the staff to explain the legal basis for the confiscation of the book, they merely replied, “We don’t have time to explain it to a person like you.”

Furthermore, it seems like the government is taking extra precautions to suppress any dissidents who could be linked to an anti-Xi faction. A terrorist bombing on April 30 at a train station in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China resulted in increased security by over 100 armed policemen. They were also forcing anyone who was taking pictures at the scene to delete them on the spot. The mainland Chinese news, however, reported nothing about the incident, choosing to keep people in the dark.

On a tragic note, less than a week ago the 79-year-old chief editor of Yu’s new book was sentenced to 10 years in prison. While the official verdict was for “smuggling ordinary goods” (seven bottles of undeclared paint), onlookers were quick to point out that 10 years seems like an exorbitant length of time for such a crime. Furthermore, the man had received a mysterious phone call prior to the publication of Yu’s book warning him not to publish it. The editor’s son, who resides in the U.S., is outraged and plans to appeal the decision.

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News, Radio Free Asia
Feature image: Micah Sittig